Mirrors

Mirrors2After a successful launch party on KUF yesterday, I thought I should at least mention my latest eBook on my own blog! For those who don’t know, I am knee deep in a new project called London Town. It’s a Dystopian Urban Fantasy series set in… London! Mirrors is a 12,000 word short story that serves as a standalone introduction to a new London that is different to the one you all know, yet strangely familiar. This is story is free and always will be, and all you have to do to get your copy is follow the link by clicking on this link. If you enjoy Mirrors, please subscribe to the London Town mailing list and tell everyone you know where they can get their own copy. I hope you enjoy it!

What would today be like without all the science and technology that runs every aspect of our lives? Jackson Rockstone knows. He has created a window through the barriers between realities alternate to our own. From his laboratory he observes a thousand Londons, all different, all unique. His favourite London has no electricity, no cars or commuters, but it does have him. He’s not a scientist in this other London, but a murderer, the master of a criminal underworld. He can only watch, sharing his double’s life as if it were the ultimate reality show. That is, until the betrayal of a woman catapults him into his new city. Scared and alone in a strange yet familiar world, what choice does he have except to find the only man he knows?

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Draft2Digital: The Full Report

There has been a fair bit of discussion about D2D recently (a lot from me, it has to be said) and I said I would report back on my experience with them. So here it is…

Firstly, whilst there are many comparisons to Smashwords, and from what I have learned over the last few months, D2D is better in a lot of ways. I have no experience of Smashwords, so I don’t want to start tearing both sites apart stating what I think is better when compared to the other. This is a report on my findings of D2D only.

Please note that D2D is still currently operating in open beta mode. This means that they haven’t officially launched yet and registering with them requires a beta access code. Don’t fret, because these codes are, at the moment, given out instantly once you register with them. This may change. There is no announced date for the official launch.

Sites supported

Currently, D2D allows you to publish your eBooks to the following sites:

Amazon
Createspace
Nook (Barnes & Noble)
Kobo
iBooks (Apple)

Further outlets are being pursued including Google and Sony.

Upload times vary for each site. I am only using Nook, Kobo and iBooks, so I can only report on their upload times, which are as follows (these may vary).

Nook: Approximately 12 hours
Kobo: Approximately 3 days
iBooks: Approximately 12 days

These times are out of D2D’s control. They do send you an email each time a site goes live with a title, and a link is included in the email for you to check out your eBook on that site.

Formatting

D2D allows you to upload an MS Word .doc (or .docx) file for conversion, or you can upload your own ePub file if you prefer.

If you use a .doc file, you can allow D2D to automatically add the front and back matter to your file and will create a working TOC. When uploading your file, you will be presented with some tick-box options allowing you to select what you would like to include, for example, a title page, an about the author page, copyright, etc.

I highly recommend using their conversion process. Simply upload a file containing just the chapters and let D2D do the rest. It’s simple and the output file is great. On top of this, you are able to take the file they generate and use it wherever else you want with no restrictions. You will be given the option to download copies in .mobi, ePub and pdf formats.

Sales reporting

Once logged into your account, you are presented with your list of published books. Clicking on each one individually, you are shown a graph of your sales covering the last 2 weeks. Click on the “My Sales” page and you can get further details of your sales history with more graphs and configurable variables. Do you want to see how many sales you had between 1st and 15th February only? No problem.

Sales figure are updated in real time (with an approximate one hour delay) on all sites except for iBooks who update once every 24 hours.

Pricing, Royalties and Payment

Currently, only iBooks and Kobo allow you to set the price of an eBook to free. For Nook and Amazon, there is a minimum of .99 cents. At the moment, the only option is to set 1 price (in US Dollars) for each title, for all sites. If you want to set it as free for Kobo and iBooks, enter $0.00 and D2D will automatically set the price to 99 cents for the others. I have been informed that they are working on including an option to set prices in other currencies such as Sterling. Remember, D2D is still in beta, so new features are being designed and added quite regularly. For the time being, the dollar price will be converted into the equivalents on each site. For $2.99, I get £2.21 with Kobo, £1.90 with Nook and £1.99 with iBooks (Apple will round up or down to the nearest x.99 price).

Rather than me list all the pricing, here is their pricing chart which details what you get with which site. Note that the $9.99 price is an example, and they don’t mean that this is the minimum you need to receive the higher royalties for each site…

Payment works much the same way as Amazon. You get paid monthly assuming you reach a certain amount ($10). Just this week they have added the option for international EFT payments direct into your bank account.

D2D are required to withhold 30% of your payment for the IRS until you send them a W8-BEN form. The good news is you can email or fax them the completed form, so there are no worries about it getting lost in the post.

They are also working on a coupon system similar to the one offered by Smashwords. There are no details on this at the moment as I believe it is still in the planning stage.

Customer Service

D2D run to weekday office hours (CST) so bear that in mind if you need to contact them. I needed to email them about something over the weekend and I had a reply (with a fix) late Monday afternoon UK time. Cannot fault their customer service at all.

Overall experience

Honestly, I cannot fault them. It is so easy to use. If you can manage Amazon’s KDP then you will have no problems here. In fact, it’s easier in some ways. The flexibility of the sales reports is excellent and the site interface is a doddle to navigate. If you are considering spreading your wings outside of Amazon, then, as a UK author looking for international options without the headache, I recommend you try D2D.

http://draft2digital.com

Indies- be independent

The self-publishing world is a fast moving one. I have been “in this business” for a little under 6 months, and can already see the tide is turning. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, authors should be finding ways to reduce their reliance on Amazon for their titles.

On March 1st, a new set of terms and conditions for Amazon’s Affiliate Programme come into force. This programme, for those who don’t know, allows website owners to earn a commission from Amazon each time a visitor to their website results in a purchase (or several) on Amazon. OK, I hear you say, what has that to do with me? I don’t have an Affiliate account.

Are you planning a free promo for your book? Are you hoping to get 10,000 maybe even 30,000 downloads during that promotion? Are you praying to any deity who might listen that sites like Ereader News Today or Pixel of Ink will mention your book? Well, it looks like we have reached the end of the road…

Here’s one of the new stipulations on Amazon…

“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”

Amazon are choking off, in one stroke, the big free book promo sites from promoting free ebooks. 20,000 a month works out at approximately 660 free downloads a day, attributed to their sites. Any more than that and they won’t get paid for any sales they generate on paid books, Kindles or anything else their visitors decide to buy.

Paragraph (b) may allow a little wiggle room if the affiliates can boost their sales of paid books to more than 20%, but whatever way you look at it, the amount of free titles these sites are going to promote is going to be brought down even further than we have seen in recent months.

Amazon, whilst still happy to allow free ebooks on their site, are trying to reduce the volume that get downloaded. They aren’t making as much money as they want to, so they are encouraging (or at least trying to) more paid sales than free downloads.

So what does that mean for us Indie authors? It means there’s another reason not to rely on Amazon for your sales. Many are in the cycle of “poor sales, run a promo, get a few thousand downloads, have a few weeks of modestly boosted sales, back to selling nothing again, wait for 3 month cycle to start again”. Facebook is out (unless you want to pay to promote your posts), Twitter, is for most people, useless. Readers don’t buy books from adverts or promo threads on forums, and now KDP Select is not as effective either.

So what’s the point in remaining in KDP Select? In my opinion, there isn’t one. I would imagine in a couple of months, Amazon will change the incentives for Select. Already, having not enrolled Uprising in it, I’m tied into the 35% royalty for sales in Indie, Brazil and Japan. I can’t earn 70% unless the book is in Select. Do not be surprised if later in the year the only way you can get 70% in all countries is to be part of Select. Hopefully, they’ll raise the 35% bottom line up for those not signed up. I will still take 50% and be non-exclusive to Amazon than get 70% to be tied into just their site.

2013 is going to be an interesting year for Amazon and ebooks. Authors are going to have to come up with new ways of driving sales to their own titles. Whatever ideas people come up with, they should remember that they are Indie authors not Amazon authors. Independence. Focus on that word. Build your own reader base, however you do it, make readers aware of who you are and where they can find you, not your Amazon page. Have a website and use it to your advantage. Drive traffic to your website, not Amazon’s (directly). Let them find your books on your site. On your site there are only your books, no-one else’s to distract them. Yes, most of your sales (assuming you are not exclusive) will still be to Amazon customers, but they will have come to Amazon from your site, not because they found you on Amazon.

It’s an uphill battle, one that will take years, not weeks or months. We all like the rush of excitement as our free download numbers go up every second, but weeks, even days later it’s all over again. No sales today, sorry.

You are an Indie author, be proud of that. Now go, find your independence.

Oh, what am I doing? http://oldlondontown.com is what I’m doing. All will be revealed later in the year (not too much later, though.)

Nooks, crannies, Kindles and Kobos

Ok, so maybe there isn’t an eReader called the Cranny (yet :s ) but unlike last Christmas, the Kindle isn’t the only kid in town any more. When in Asda a couple of weeks ago I saw a rather prominent display of Nook and Kobo eReaders. It was the first time I had seen them since their release in this country and am now convinced that I shouldn’t just stick with Amazon and their KDP Select programme for my novel(s).

Lots of people will end up with one of these new devices instead of a Kindle this Christmas day and they are probably going to want a little bit of help getting set up with it. Now, if it were a Kindle they opened, I would point them in the direction of http://www.kuforum.co.uk for everything they need, including a whole list of free eBooks for their new device.

But that’s for Kindles. But wait, there’s a new site just for those who now suddenly find themselves with a Nook or a Kobo: http://www.nobooko.com

Set up by the owners of KUF, it hopes to cater for the Nooks and Kobos, so if you find you are the proud owner of one of these, thanks to Santa, and have somehow ended up on this blog, do take a look and join this new forum. In fact, why not join them both?

And remember, an eBook is for life, not just for Christmas! 🙂

Do you know what you are doing?

This post goes out to all the other Indie Authors who may read this 🙂

The year is nearly over and we are now turning our attentions to 2013 and what it might bring. Almost every author I know (online obviously) would love to be standing here in a year’s time, able to tell everyone they are a #1 bestselling author who has quit the day job and now writes full time. I do too!

Great, but how do you achieve that? If there has been a theme on the forums in the latter half of this year it is one of that things are getting harder (not that they were ever easy to begin with) to get noticed as an Indie. Running a 5 day promo on Amazon doesn’t reward an author the way it did earlier on in the year. Many now find themselves surprised to find that they didn’t give away as many copies as they hoped for, and the subsequent sales bump was negligible if anything at all. “What now?” they all cry. What now indeed.

Next year probably won’t get any better in terms of KDP Select success. Sure, there will be a handful that release a book and see it rocket up the charts without any kind of marketing to epic success, but 90% of Indies will see nothing more than a small handful of sales each month. Why? Because 90% of them will either do nothing to promote their work, or if they do, it will be exactly the same as everyone else. They will use Facebook, Twitter, their blog, forums etc, run the occasional free promo and that will be it.

Now, I realise that I am pretty new to all this Indie publishing malarkey, but in the last three months I can tell you I have learned a hell of a lot. I have asked questions and listened to those who have been around the block a few times, I have found patterns in what newbies do (myself included) and see why they aren’t getting anywhere. I believe I know why the majority aren’t doing as well as they could do. There is no planning.

Ask an author what they are doing right now to promote their book(s) and they will tell you much of the above. Ask them what they plan to do come January. What are they hoping to do at Easter? Most will likely say they don’t know. Some will say they expect to have a new title out and hope that will help boost sales of the other(s). Great. What else are you doing?

Now, assuming you are one of those Indies that wants to sell as many copies as possible, become the next name in fiction and be successful (some are just content to know that their novel is “out there” and don’t care if they only sell one copy a year) take note of this statement.

An Indie Author should see themselves as a small business.

A small business exists to make money and hopefully become a bigger business. A small business has a product or a service to offer. An Indie Author has a product to offer. They wish to sell said product for a profit. Author = small business. Got that? Good!

Now, any small business (actually, ANY business) needs a business plan. You have your idea/product/service and you go to your bank and tell them you want to start your own business and want some cash to start it up, they will want to see your plan. They will want to know things like, who is your target market? Who are your competitors? Where will you sell your product, etc etc. Where do you want your business to be in a year’s time. What is your profit/loss forecast for the next 3-5 years?

So with that in mind, what are you doing in 2013 to get yourself noticed as an Indie Author? How does that differ from everyone else? Taking the overnight successes out of the equation (the equivalent of those who win the lottery), the big success stories of next year will be those who have planned ahead, thought things through and busted a gut to get there. Sure, a little bit of luck is needed, and even a shed load of those who plan everything down to the smallest detail will still fail to sell more than a handful a month. But at least they tried.

I am an Indie author. I am a small business. I have a business plan for 2013 and 2014. Of course I am not going to reveal too much about it here. I will say that I have 1 book out before the year is out. I have 4 planned for 2013. I have something else planned for 2014, something special. Most of this revolves around my new IP. I know where I want to be at Easter, by the end of Summer. I know what I will be doing next Christmas. One thing I will say is that I am not relying on Amazon and their KDP Select programme. Uprising won’t even be enrolled in Select.

I may fail, I may get nowhere. But I will die trying.

Do you know what you are doing next year?

Firestone gets a new cover!

Today sees the release of the new professionally designed cover for Firestone. I think it is an excellent design and is a hundred times better than anything I could come up with myself. The talented guy who did it is Todd Hebertson. His website can be found here

The price of fiction

There has been a lot of talk this week about J. K. Rowling’s new novel The Casual Vacancy, particularly about the price for the ebook version (currently £11.99 on Amazon).

Whilst I definitely believe an author should be paid a fair amount for their work, I do feel that charging nearly £12 is somewhat excessive, and if you look at the Amazon reviews, a lot of others agree with this. Of course, the price has been set by the publisher and reflects the price of the hardback version of the novel, and when the paperback edition comes out in, presumably, 6 months time, the ebook price will fall to match it.

Given the growth of the ebook market over the past few years, is there still a place for the traditional model of “expensive hardback first, cheaper paperback later” that the publishers use? I don’t think there is. Ebook sales are already outstripping their paper counterparts and over the coming years, the number of paper books will continue to decrease as the uptake of ebooks and ebook readers/tablets grows ever stronger.

So, what are the big publishers to do? As the number of paper sales decreases, it is only inevitable that the RRP for these copies will increase as the cost per unit will be more as less are printed. It is time that the publishers accepted ebooks are the way forward and that the format should be taken seriously and the RRP of a digital copy should properly set in accordance to not having a physical copy, and not matched to what they expect consumers to part with for a paper copy.

It is not just the book industry that is suffering from the onslaught of the digital age. Video games, movies and music are all in the same boat. Why would a consumer pay £9.99 for a music album of their favourite artist in mp3 format when they can buy a CD version in a shop (or online) for £6-7? Sure, some people still want to own a physical copy of a game/book/album and always will, but what about the growing number of consumers who just want instant access to new material for their Kindle or iPad or whatever?

The way we consume media is changing and those in the industry seem hell-bent on holding us back, trying to keep things “real”. “What about piracy?” they scream. Of course, there will always be piracy, but if the big companies are not willing to remodel their pricing for the 21st century consumer, then that consumer will either not buy or will pirate what they want. Either way, those who worked hard on their product will lose out.

I am not suggesting that The Casual Vacancy should be priced at 99p, but I can’t help wondering how many more copies they would have sold this week if the ebook version was priced at £4.99?

100 Word story

The Kindle Users forum (http://kuforum.co.uk) had a thread asking for stories of no more than 100 words. Here’s my little effort…

The Dustcat.

Some time ago, not far from here there lived a dustcat. Created from the debris of a storm, he roamed the night in search of other dustcats in the hope that he was not alone. On the near light of dawn he met a badger.
‘Are you a dustcat too?’ he asked the badger.
‘No, I am a badger. There’s no such thing as a dustcat.’
‘But I’m a dustcat!’
As the badger considered his reply a gust of wind swept the dustcat away.
‘See, there’s no such thing as a dustcat,’ said the badger to himself.

Jumping through hoops

I don’t have a Kindle. I have a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, which I absolutely love. Not only can I read Kindle titles, I can do Facebook, surf the web, email and anything else I can think of. It’s great. Also, even though I use Amazon for mp3’s and ebooks, I am not tied into Amazon in the same way a Kindle Fire is.

Anyway, I bought my Tab in August when they were offering a £30 cashback deal. To get the £30, I firstly had to wait 30 days before I could even claim the cashback, which is fine. Also, when the 30 days is up, I only have 15 days to put in the claim, also fine.

So, this morning I fill in the claim form online and get to the step where I have to choose which model I have. Unfortunately, the list of model numbers doesn’t match what’s on the box. Annoyingly, I ended up searching Google to find out which model number I had.

Then they wanted a copy of the receipt. I don’t have a scanner, so out comes the camera on my phone.

Form filled in (eventually), curt comment left in the box that asked me what I thought of the claim process.

I now have to wait 45 days to get my monies. Roll on 6th November!